5 Steps to Avoid Empty Nest Syndrome
The phenomenal emotions resulting from your children moving away may be avoided by directing energy back to yourself.
I have spent the last twenty years building a routine. It didn’t happen all at once. It took adjustments at each stage of my children’s development, with military deployments, with hobbies and housework, with outside influences. Every couple of years there was a re-investigation into everything that had been accumulating and building and then learning how to adapt and apply. It took exploring the real foundational problems within my family that included diet, self-worth, mental health, financial and a failed marriage. It has taken learning to trust each other within the walls of our house even in times of disappointment. Routines are now built around sharing, contributing, and listening. There has been a steady shift (read “not overnight”) of personal responsibilities to each of us. Laundry, dishes, yard work, and not ignoring what is right in front of you. There are days of setbacks, but in the scheme of the last twenty years, we are doing OK and our routine makes us feel safe and solid.
Now, with one child out the door and the other soon on her heels, I am left with my “routine” changing again and new things to explore. The introspective is on “me” for the first time ever. I know, I know, a mom is always a “mom.” But I feel good about the kids and their place and where they are going. It will not be easy for them, but really, who has it easy? It is always a matter of perspective. I just know my kids have a little intellect, a little street smarts, socially capable, and aspirations in life. They will be OK.
Here are my five steps I plan on taking for this next transition in life to renew my routine.
1. Take some time for me
It would be nice to fulfill the images of travel, exploration and wonderful cuisine around the globe I have swirling in my head. But, alas, that is not practical by any means in my life. Perhaps the last twenty years of my life it will be enjoyed that way, just not this current twenty. I AM, however, going to read more labels at the grocery store. I never had time to do that; I was either yelling at the chitlins not to touch anything or in a hurry to get into the car rider line for school pickups. I AM going to reward myself with $6 eyebrow waxing’s more than once a year. Yup, just not a priority when I had a timeline for soccer practice, girl scouts, football, and school projects. And lastly, I AM going to have more dinner parties…to get my wonderful cuisine fix in. They will be themed culinary explorations of exotic lands of the globe with engaging conversation with friends and thoughtful pairings.
2. Pick a health goal for longevity
I do have multiple sclerosis, but I am not afraid of it or how it will affect my future. When I think about my future I want to be strong. Not a size, not a gym rat, not run a marathon. Strong. What does strong mean to me? It means having a balance between all my parts, top to bottom and all my organs, cardio and brain. So, what can I do that encompasses all that? Wait for it…. Tennis! I have been playing tennis on and off for about a decade and love it! Again, making time for myself, well it has been lacking. So, I commit to playing more tennis this next twenty years, for my health and for my longevity; at least twice a week with several tournaments in a year. This will be my new routine.
3. Reconnect with me
The above will naturally help me reconnect with myself but I intend something different or additional. I intend to listen to myself and call myself out; not let myself “justify” either my behaviors or that of others. I won’t fool myself and just “carry on”. How am I going to do this? Mindfulness. Now mindfulness is not just about yoga and meditation. I might get to that point, but it will be a little while. First I am going to teach myself to slow down. To not react too quickly. And mostly to not let things blind me like the notion of ignoring my feelings to just “carry on”. There was a time in my life where I would fool myself by saying “If I am busy from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed, I am busy, and therefore cannot possibly do more.” What a crock! Being more mindful, reconnecting with myself, I believe will help me achieve an attitude of happiness and have a trickle down affect positively affecting my sleep and stress.
4. Make myself my passion project
This may seem a little self-promoting, I apologize. After school and a brief advertising career (eight years) parenthood began. I have spent twenty years, plus, building another’s career and the children’s foundation for their futures. Selfishly, now it is my time. To put all my energies and resources, intensity and diligence in me and my passion. It took a couple of years of self-examination and reflection to discover exactly how that was defined. It took a little of this in one area, and a little of that in another, to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. After bringing all this together and finding the support of other professionals and professional organizations who have joined me in my adventure of entrepreneurship, it is clear, that the next twenty years I am living my passion project, MyHealthStyle App.
5. Financial goals
Assuming the former does not doom me to debt forever. I think I got it figured out. First off, my home will be paid off in a few short years. Now, it is not a quarter-million-dollar upkeep of a home, it is simple and humble, but rather perfect (and if I ever get in trouble with my M.S. it will suit well). This will allow me to choose a summer property, small and humble too, perhaps in a different country, and have that paid off at the beginning of the final twenty. I am a good DIY’er so that will keep all costs down. I have a record of keeping my vehicles for twenty years and 300K miles. So, that is just one more in my life. You see how practical I am viewing things? Keep my company in the black, keep my expenses down and just be pragmatic. No stress, no worry mixed in with a little fun. Yes, I have grandiose ideas of owning a B&B or a DIY Pinterest workshop in my retirement years. But at the end of the day, I want to be available for my kids and perhaps grand kids, and the best way this empty nester can do that is to not complicate life more than it needs to be.